Two hundred attend second French-Canadian dinner in Greenville

Volunteers Lise Knight, left, Julie Cyr, Kelly Cyr, Deb Fournier, Janine Desgres and Simon Bourgault dish out food at the Greenville French-Canadian dinner on Saturday.

Volunteers Lise Knight, left, Julie Cyr, Kelly Cyr, Deb Fournier, Janine Desgres and Simon Bourgault dish out food at the Greenville French-Canadian dinner on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

The line for the dinner table stretches to the back of the American Legion Pavilion.

The line for the dinner table stretches to the back of the American Legion Pavilion. PHOTO BY NICHOLE BERNIER—

Musicians perform French-Canadian and Acadian music during the dinner on Saturday night.

Musicians perform French-Canadian and Acadian music during the dinner on Saturday night. PHOTO BY NICHOLE BERNIER

Residents lined up to fill their plates at the French-Canadian dinner in Greenville on Saturday.

Residents lined up to fill their plates at the French-Canadian dinner in Greenville on Saturday. Photo by Nichole Bernier—

Julie Cyr and Kelly Cyr serve up helpings of pork pie.

Julie Cyr and Kelly Cyr serve up helpings of pork pie. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Deb Fournier and Janine Desgres check the warming pans to prepare for their first round of customers.

Deb Fournier and Janine Desgres check the warming pans to prepare for their first round of customers. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

Kelly Cyr and Lise Knight dish out food at the Greenville French-Canadian Dinner.

Kelly Cyr and Lise Knight dish out food at the Greenville French-Canadian Dinner. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

Simon Bourgault and Deb Fournier transfer cooked dumplings to serving plates.

Simon Bourgault and Deb Fournier transfer cooked dumplings to serving plates. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Volunteer Janine Desgres serves up baked beans during the dinner.

Volunteer Janine Desgres serves up baked beans during the dinner. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

Mark Cyr serves up helpings.

Mark Cyr serves up helpings. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Janine Desgres smiles as she welcomes a guest to the dinner.

Janine Desgres smiles as she welcomes a guest to the dinner. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Deb Fournier serves up soup and main dishes.

Deb Fournier serves up soup and main dishes. PHOTO BY NICHOLE BERNIER—

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 09-18-2023 2:23 PM

The Greenville American Legion pavilion was packed with 200 people on Saturday night, eating hearty dishes of pork, potatoes, stews and beans and sugar pie, recipes from the older generations of French-Canadian immigrants that came to Greenville to work the mills.

On a table at the front of the hall, dishes made by cooks from Greenville and the surrounding area, often from family recipes, included boulettes de porc (pork meatballs), tourtière (pork pie), pâté chinois (Chinese pie), la soupe aux pois (pea soup), chicken fricot (an Acadian stew), and baked beans à la Canadienne.

The dinner was a replay of a similar French-Canadian-themed dinner held last year for Greenville’s 150th anniversary celebrations. But this year, it was even bigger – held in the pavilion, which has more space, and with at least 50 more attendants than last year, said organizers Moe Desrosiers and Henri Vaillancourt.

The dishes are often hearty, with a lot of carbohydrates and grease, food Vaillancourt said characterized the hard-working lifestyle of a lot of the French-Canadian immigrants.

“It’s food you probably don’t want to be eating all the time, but in moderation, it’s very good,” Vaillancourt said.

And the tables drew in hundreds of guests, with the line for the dinner table stretching out the pavilion doors.

“There were so many people. It was unbelievable,” Vaillancourt said. “It was more than last year. It was packed.”

Resident Kathy Valliere brought crockpots full of her family’s baked bean with salt pork recipe, made with onions, molasses, brown sugar and dried mustard. She said it’s a dish without an exact recipe – just something that all the women in her family knew.

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“My mother, my aunt – everyone knew that recipe,” Valliere said.

Valliere said sharing that culture is part of why she thinks making the dinner an annual event is a great idea.

“You look around here,” Valliere said, indicating the parking lot full of cars and hall full of people, “and how can you say not to come back after this? It’s incredible. You don’t realize how many Canadians are still around until you have this dinner.”

The event was ticketed, but children under 12 were free, in part, Vaillancourt said, because one of the goals of the dinner is to revive some of the French-Canadian traditions that were at one time inextricable from Greenville life, when enough residents spoke French as a first or second language that church services and school classes were taught in the language.

“Kids now, they didn’t grow up with it, and it’s a great way to get them into the culture,” Vaillancourt said.

And the dinner has become a gathering point not only for current residents, but for those that once lived in town and have since moved to surrounding communities.

“It brings them back, and lets them see and socialize with people they may not have seen for decades. It was well worth doing,” Vaillancourt said.

Greenville resident Dick Eaton said despite not being of French-Canadian descent, he attended both last year’s dinner and this years, noting that while he wasn’t a part of the culture directly, he grew up with many people who were, and was enjoying visiting old friends.

“Vive la difference!” Eaton declared.

Vaillancourt confirmed that the dinner is now an official town tradition. The second iteration of the dinner was so successful, volunteers were already planning next year’s event by the end of the night, including already booking the American Legion pavilion again for Sept. 21, 2024.

“People were excited, and when you have volunteers who are interested and excited, you have to just say, ‘Let’s do it,’” Vaillancourt said.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.